Amusing Anti-Evolution Arguments

One recurring argument that anyone involved in the evolution debate encounters frequently goes like this:

Darwinism is impossible. If Darwinism is true, then you have to believe that the big bang exploded and the result was the universe around us. That's like a tornado blowing through a junkyard and building a 747. Explosions only destroy, they can't create.

Leaving aside the fact that this isn't even an accurate description of the big bang, any even modestly educated person must shake their head at what on earth this has to do with the theory of evolution. One searches the work of Darwin in vain to find any reference whatsoever to big bang cosmology. Lest you think that my example is fanciful, I give you Pat Buchanan in the Worldnutdaily, in an article entitled What are the Darwinists Afraid Of?

"Intelligent design" is the banner under which evolution is being put under siege, and the methodology of attack is the one Darrow used on Bryan: Prove to us that your theory is true, because it seems to contradict common sense...

Our ordered universe was created out of chaos. Who or what created it? The latest theory of the evolutionists is the "Big Bang," a gigantic explosion, eons ago, did it.

But from common sense and experience, when - ever - has an explosion created order? Explosions destroy. And if the Big Bang was due to an explosion, where did the chemicals come from? And who lit the firecracker that caused the Big Bang?

As a wag has put it, to believe an explosion created an ordered universe is like believing a hurricane roaring through a junkyard can create a fifth-generation computer.

Pat, Pat, Pat. Let me explain something to you. Evolution is the theory of common descent. It says that all modern life forms are derived from one or a few common ancestors through descent with modification. There's a reason why Darwin's book was called On the Origin of Species and not On the Origin of the Universe - because evolution has nothing to do with the origin of the universe, or of stars, or of the planet, or of anything other than biological diversity on this planet. Evolution doesn't mean "every scientific theory you object to." This just goes to support the argument I've been making for years. Most people who reject evolution do so not because they know anything about evolution, but because they have this vague notion that evolution means atheism. And they constantly conflate the two, attacking atheism when they think they're attacking evolution.

Even more baffling than this is the fact that a Christian would attack big bang cosmology at all. The most educated and sophisticated Christian apologists, like William Lane Craig, make big bang cosmology the centerpiece of their argument. They would argue that the fact of the big bang strongly supports the Christian view because it proved that the universe had a beginning, an argument that has been made since the moment big bang cosmology first began to hold sway. I'm not really interested either way in debating that particular question, but I will point out that none of it has anything at all to do with evolution and even less so with "Darwinism" (the big bang was, of course, unheard of in Darwin's day).

On the same day in the Worldnutdaily, David Limbaugh (Yes, Rush's brother) has a similar column about evolution and ID, and it contains this amusing line:

Note that the president did not recommend that the teaching of Darwinism be banned in public schools, merely that the theory of intelligent design (ID) ought to be taught as well. Bush said, "I think part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought."

The main players in the ID movement are not even insisting on that much. Discovery Institute, for example, opposes the mandatory teaching of ID in public schools, but favors requiring students to be exposed to criticisms of Darwin's theory.

This just in from the Department of Redundancy Department: ID is nothing but criticisms of evolution, so when you say "they don't want to teach ID, only the criticisms of evolution", you're contradicting yourself. Every single claim made by ID advocates up to this point has been a purely negative argument against evolution, with the assumption being that if evolution can't explain something then God must have done it. Behe's "irreducible complexity" (IC) is not a theory of intelligent design, it is merely a criticism of the ability of evolution to explain certain biochemical systems (and a criticism that fails badly on multiple levels). Dembski's "complex specified information" (CSI) is a not a theory of intelligent design, it is merely a criticism of evolution. His "explanatory filter" makes this quite obvious, requiring the failure of evolutionary explanations as a necessary condition to invoke "design". And Jonathan Wells' contribution to ID, his book Icons of Evolution is nothing more than a set of criticisms of evolution, most of them highly distorted and highly dishonest.

So the notion that "I want to teach ID in schools" and "I want to teach the criticisms of evolution in schools" are different statements is simply false. All they have are criticisms of evolution, all of which have been thoroughly answered a hundred times over. And all one has to do to dispute this claim is to produce an actual ID model or theory that does not involve the failure of evolution as an explanation. Don't hold your breath on that one.

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Unfortunately, the term "evolution" is being used by legitimate scientists (or at least science supporters) to describe the history of the universe. A very quick search found a couple examples.

From the Statement on the Teaching of Evolution and Cosmology from the Am. Assoc. of Physics Teachers: "However, biological and cosmological evolution are theories as strongly supported and interwoven into the fabric of science as any other essential underpinnings of modern science and technology.".

From the NASA Web site for the WMAP mission: "Cosmology is the scientific study of the large scale properties of the Universe as a whole. It endeavors to use the scientific method to understand the origin, evolution and ultimate fate of the entire Universe."

Just what we need, more confusion over terminology, ala "theory".

By Tim Tesar (not verified) on 09 Aug 2005 #permalink

And Jonathan Wells' contribution to ID, his book Icons of Evolution is nothing more than a set of criticisms of ID, most of them highly distorted and highly dishonest.

You meant to say "criticisms of evolution"?

But from common sense and experience, when - ever - has an explosion created order? Explosions destroy. And if the Big Bang was due to an explosion, where did the chemicals come from? And who lit the firecracker that caused the Big Bang?

I haven't heard the "explosions destroy, not create" argument since the halcyon days of Kent Hovind. He must have really dredged the bottom of the barrel for that one.

And it's amazing how many people honestly think all you need is a little common sense to understand this complex science and what's wrong with it. If they had a little common sense, they'd know there was something wrong with that picture.

Tim Tesar wrote:

Unfortunately, the term "evolution" is being used by legitimate scientists (or at least science supporters) to describe the history of the universe. A very quick search found a couple examples.
From the NASA Web site for the WMAP mission: "Cosmology is the scientific study of the large scale properties of the Universe as a whole. It endeavors to use the scientific method to understand the origin, evolution and ultimate fate of the entire Universe."

I don't have a problem with this usage. The same word can be used differently in different contexts (is a "bat" a piece of wood used to strike a ball or a winged mammal?). An intelligent person can recognize that the word "evolution" doesn't mean the same thing when discussing biological evolution and cosmological evolution. Stars and galaxies do not reproduce or pass on inherited characteristics, so obviously these are distinct ideas describing entirely different phenomena. So it's not unfortunate that scientists use the same term, it's just unfortunate that so many people are dumb enough not to recognize the obvious distinction in how the term is used. The fact that someone like Pat Buchanan can't recognize this difference is to be blamed no his ignorance, not on scientists who use the term in very distinct ways. And the fact that he thinks "Darwinism" has something to do with the big bang only shows that he hasn't read Darwin.

Someone needs to read a little Steven Hawking. Rather than being "chaotic", the Big Bang was enormously uniform. There was very little entropy in the initial conditions. The analysis of the microwave background radiation shows the extreme uniformity. So, rather than being a chaotic explosion, it was a highly uniform one. And, rather than violate the second law of thermodynamics, it conforms to it. Entropy has only increased in total since the Big Bang. Of course, there are small regions where entropy decreases due to energy flow, but universally it's only increased.

Not only that ruidh, but the current theory of star formation does hold that "order" (meaning new stars) is created out of chaos (supernovae) - it is the explosion of old stars that disperses material throughout interstellar space, where at least some of it pools and can become new star breeding grounds. And it is the "chaos" of rocks and gas surrounding a proto-star that creates the very planets we are talking about - because gravity actually is the force by which the chaos of dust and gas coalesce to create new space bodies - both stars and planets. Even modern galaxy formation theories include supermassive blackholes as the key precursor of a galaxy.

Let's understand something. The Big Bang was not an explosion. It was--and still is--an expansion. It created spacetime, according to Einstein's theory of General Relativity. According to GR, there was no space prior to the BB. And there was no time prior to the BB. I'm not joking. Time and space began with the BB. These are difficult concepts to assimilate, and I actually have a physics background.

What was the origin of the expansion? What was the source of the singularity from which the universe derived (according to Einstein's theory). We don't know. But GR appears to explain the evolution of the (observable) universe quite well.

Side note: I actually hope to live long enough to find out the answers to the questions posed above. Einstein did not.

'They would argue that the fact of the big bang strongly supports the Christian view because it proved that the universe had a beginning, an argument that has been made since the moment big bang cosmology first began to hold sway'

Whats funny is that many cosmologists think it may have had multiple beginnings. That the Big Bang doesn't actually 'begin' anything. Makes you wonder what happens to such apologetics when the theory is fully flushed out or modified.

I have never found Craig any more compelling than any other apologist, but at least he does make use of better science.

Something no one seems to have mentioned yet -- the Big Bang was NOT an explosion any more than inflating a balloon is an explosion. The misconception is widespread so it's hardly surprising that the almost universally science-illiterate creationism sympathizers would use it as an argument. You might think of the idea as a flag that says: "I am completely ignorant of even high school science so feel free to ignore the following..."

"And if the Big Bang was due to an explosion, where did the chemicals come from?"

Of course that's retarded, but it does inspire me to try to finish Steven Weinberg's "The First Three Minutes" -- which would answer Buchanan's question (more or less).

I went back to read Genesis to try to learn where God came from, but there's diddly-squat. Maybe it's written in the margins of Buchanan's bible, though.

Of course, one of the Big Bang's greatest early proponents, Lemaitre, was a Jesuit priest. What's more, much of the early opposition to the theory, from Einstein for instance, was inspired by the suspicion that it was an attempt to sneak God into science. That so many IDers reject the theory is supremely ironic.

By Ginger Yellow (not verified) on 15 Aug 2005 #permalink